Freezer Pickles


My original recipe for this, passed down from my mom on a handwritten 3×5 card, is named “Ice Box Pickles” for the days when large blocks of ice were cut during the winter, buried in straw through the summer, and delivered house to house on a horse-drawn wagon. A modern-day, electric-powered freezer works just as well, though, for one my favorite ways of highlighting the season’s crisp cucumbers.

I used to make these in college, when canning was out of the question. Even my little refrigerator cube, hidden away from the dorm inspectors inside my closet and sporting only a tiny “freezer” shelf, could finish decent pickles. It’s an easy, low-maintenance recipe that’s perfect for lazy weekends.


Fresh seeds collected from the ripened heads of dill plants were a recent garnish for my latest batch of these crisp, cold pickles. But I also love fresh or dried dills leaves, whole mustard seeds, tiny celery seeds, or even a hint of gorgeous sumac.

Freezer pickles are perfect for accompanying sandwiches or, if you tend towards a sour palate like me, a refreshing snack spooned straight from the jar.

They’re super easy to make, so be sure to make a couple of extra jars that you can share with a neighbor or friend, bring to a potluck or picnic, or enjoy all the way through the waning days of August.

Freezer Pickles

Makes: 3 half-pint jars.

4 cups thinly sliced pickling, Japanese, or Armenian cucumbers
1 small, thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1-2 cups sugar (depending on your taste for sweetness)
1 cup white, distilled vinegar
2 tablespoons dill, celery, or mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes or 1 fresh chile, sliced thinly (optional)


  1. Toss together the cucumber slices, red onion, and salt. Refrigerate this mixture overnight. Rinse well, then squeeze dry in a clean cloth or press well against a colander to remove as much moisture as possible.
  2. In a glass, plastic or ceramic bowl, stir together vinegar, sugar, and spices. Add the cucumber and stir well with a wooden spoon or your hands.
  3. Pack into glass jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace, and freeze at least 24 hours. Thaw pickles in serving bowl for at least 10 minutes just before serving.


Author: Thy Tran

San Francisco-based writer specializing in history and culture of food.

2 thoughts on “Freezer Pickles”

  1. Just tasted my first batch of freezer pickles. Great stuff! Thanks, Thy. My wife’s Vietnamese palate loves them as well, but we both thought that for the next round we’ll use a little less that one cup of sugar. This will definitely be in the recipe rotation for a while.

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